Vaccinating ourselves against cancer

Several news outlets carried a story this week regarding very promising results of cancer vaccines trials. This was a very small trial (on just three patients) who had an aggressive and late-stage skin cancer known as melanoma. In all three patients the cancers stopped growing, and they were alive and well at the time of publication. In spite of the low number of patients, this study provides a tantalising glimpse of a brand new form of cancer therapy.

Cancer vaccines
How cancer vaccines work

So how would these vaccines work? The aim is to teach the patient’s own immune system that cancer cells are bad. That way, our own bodies could potentially mount a natural and effective response, free of the side-effects of conventional chemotherapy. Myriam has previously posted a great blog on how the immune system works (which can be found here), so I’ll stick to the basics.

Our immune system recognises invaders or abnormal growths by reading what molecules are sticking out from the surface of cells. These molecules are known as antigens. If the immune system recognizes a cell’s antigens as being foreign or abnormal, it will mount an immune-response to clear it from our system. The key is to correctly differentiate foreign antigens from normal, and this is the responsibility of a group of “teacher” immune cells which differentiate friend from foe and teach the other immune cells to do the same. These teacher cells include cells known as “dendritic cells”, which were used in this study.

However, cancer cells are problematic for these “teacher” cells. Because cancers arise from a cell that was once healthy, they are sometimes not recognised as being abnormal, and as a result the immune system isn’t alerted to the problem.

What these scientists did was to analyse the cells in a biopsy of the patient’s tumour to understand what molecules (antigens) are sticking out from the surface of only the cancer cells. The next step was to train the teaching cells (dendritic cells) to see these specific antigens as foreign. These newly-educated dendritic cells were then put back into the patient’s blood, where they could teach other immune cells to attack the tumour. Encouragingly, after the dendritic cells were infused back into the patients, they mounted a massive immune response to the tumour. It remains to be seen whether this presents a long term solution to these people’s cancers, but it is an exciting “proof of principle” study.

This is a very promising new therapy for cancer. It has the potential to be very specific to the tumour and hence have very few side effects. Large scale use of such technology is still quite a few years away, but his is a very exciting step along that path.

 

7 thoughts on “Vaccinating ourselves against cancer

  1. You promote the boardroom created story about cancer! And this “drug therapy” is about destroying some of the immune system’s capabilities. Immune cells normally assist cancer cells. The question is why?.

    Like

    • Read the article Kyrani, there is no destruction of the immune system involved.

      From this and previous comments, I understand that you seem to think that the cancer and the normal cells in our bodles have intelligence, that they consciously decide what to do. This is not the case. You ask why the immune cells “assist” cancer cells. Everything that happens in cancer is as a result of the corruption of normal processes in the body. We understand some of it, we don’t understand other parts. But, because we don’t understand bits, doesn’t mean that the supernatural is involved.

      Like

      • Far from the immune cells “not being alerted to the problem” of cancer cells having not recognized their “alien antigens” cancer cells are recognized by the immune system and helped, not destroyed.

        A number of studies have shown that the tumor microenvironment (which includes stromal cells) and the immune cell present immune cells such as tumor-infiltrating macrophages significantly influence tumor progression. angiogenesis, (formation of new blood vessels) being an important part of tumor development.

        These immune cells are the adaptive immune system including some lymphocytes AND immune cells of the innate immunity including macrophages, neutrophils, eosinophils, mast cells, dendritic cells, and natural killer cells.

        Immune cells are now recognized as playing a crucial role in regulating the formation and the remodeling of blood vessels in the tumor. They “aid and abet” in tumor growth and metastasis. But this is not told to the public.

        Here have a look at this study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3986554/

        and this one: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4051818/

        http://www.elsevier.com/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/115721/current-problems-in-cancer-article-3.pdf
        Note I had some problems finding this last one and I can’t remember what I did to find it the first time. Maybe you’ll have better luck.

        So it is not that immune cells don’t recognize the cancer cells as aliens. The “proof of principle” that you talk about is really a perversion of what the body is doing because they are teaching immune cells to do something that is unnatural, an aberration, which is par for the course for most drug mechanism of action.

        The question is why do immune cells help the cancers grow and metastasize?

        The answer may give rise not only to helping people cure cancer without drugs but more than that to help those with injuries regrow new body parts in situ. Why is that not done? Because it is not profitable. There are far more people with cancer and the incidence is sharply increasing. So they are looking for a profitable cancer treatment and not a realistic one.

        Cancer cells and normal body cells and microbes and all cells in creation have intelligence and are conscious entities but that doesn’t mean that they work alone outside of their environment. The cells in a person’s body will respond to a person’s perceptions and beliefs. This is dramatically seen in cancer because the changes that take place in the genome, which involves tens of thousands of genes, are deliberate and intelligent changes that create a new form of functional cell. And not merely functional but showing superior qualities. The changes are not all epigenetic but they are all deliberate and they are all reversible. That can’t happen if they are just the dumb parts of a machine. That can’t also happen if they are simply damaged. You really think that a new organ mass, with stromal cells for a basis, with the assistance of the immune system and with the capabilities of transgressing tissues and traveling through the blood stream to specific new sites is all because of a corruption of normal processes? Then you need to look at some of the many efforts made by evolutionary biologist to produce something useful from damaging or displacing genes at random. None have worked. None have produced anything functional. Genetic engineering involves intelligent changes to the genome only.

        Intelligence and consciousness are certainly of the “supernatural” because they cannot be explained in terms of materialism. But can you deny them? Can you say that you are just a machine, that is working on automatic.. even without free will as Sam Harris would have us believe, just a dumb sequenced series of events that are linked one after the other, each totally determined by the previous events? Man have a look at bacteria. They are able to change their genome with horizontal transfers etc., and influence one another as to become drug resistant. By chance and natural selection AND not only consistently over a huge number of people in the population but also often in a matter of a few hours? I’m sorry but I can’t buy that. The body.. life.. is not a machine but intelligent life, which we have yet to define, and it is purpose-driven. Beliefs play the crucial role.
        Kyrani

        Like

      • Far from the immune cells “not being alerted to the problem” of cancer cells having not recognized their “alien antigens” cancer cells are recognized by the immune system and helped, not destroyed.
        A number of studies have shown that the tumor microenvironment (which includes stromal cells) and the immune cell present immune cells such as tumor-infiltrating macrophages significantly influence tumor progression. angiogenesis, (formation of new blood vessels) being an important part of tumor development.
        These immune cells are the adaptive immune system including some lymphocytes AND immune cells of the innate immunity including macrophages, neutrophils, eosinophils, mast cells, dendritic cells, and natural killer cells.
        Immune cells are now recognized as playing a crucial role in regulating the formation and the remodeling of blood vessels in the tumor. They “aid and abet” in tumor growth and metastasis. But this is not told to the public.

        It is very well known that in some situations cancer can co-opt the immune system. There are regular papers on this area and it is an active area of research. I’m not sure where you get the idea that the public are told about these things. However, the immune system clears up most cancers, before the people have any idea there is anything wrong. When the cancer has evolved a way around that and can avoid the immune system, that is when it can grow and we find out about it.

        So it is not that immune cells don’t recognize the cancer cells as aliens. The “proof of principle” that you talk about is really a perversion of what the body is doing because they are teaching immune cells to do something that is unnatural, an aberration, which is par for the course for most drug mechanism of action.
        Every time you get exposed to an antigen, your immune system is taught to recognise it. This is not a “perversion” or an “aberration”. It is normal.
        The question is why do immune cells help the cancers grow and metastasize?

        There is no “why?”. It is not a consciously directed process. The cancer cells have evolved that way.

        The answer may give rise not only to helping people cure cancer without drugs but more than that to help those with injuries regrow new body parts in situ. Why is that not done? Because it is not profitable. There are far more people with cancer and the incidence is sharply increasing. So they are looking for a profitable cancer treatment and not a realistic one.

        Growing new body parts? Really?

        Cancer cells and normal body cells and microbes and all cells in creation have intelligence and are conscious entities but that doesn’t mean that they work alone outside of their environment. The cells in a person’s body will respond to a person’s perceptions and beliefs. This is dramatically seen in cancer because the changes that take place in the genome, which involves tens of thousands of genes, are deliberate and intelligent changes that create a new form of functional cell. And not merely functional but showing superior qualities. The changes are not all epigenetic but they are all deliberate and they are all reversible. That can’t happen if they are just the dumb parts of a machine. That can’t also happen if they are simply damaged. You really think that a new organ mass, with stromal cells for a basis, with the assistance of the immune system and with the capabilities of transgressing tissues and traveling through the blood stream to specific new sites is all because of a corruption of normal processes? Then you need to look at some of the many efforts made by evolutionary biologist to produce something useful from damaging or displacing genes at random. None have worked. None have produced anything functional. Genetic engineering involves intelligent changes to the genome only.

        This is all rubbish. Pretty much every bit of it. A basic biology text book is all you need to see that. I find your last point about biologists not being able to produce cancer by damaging or replacing genes is especially wrong, because it is what I do every day. The entire cancer research field is based on this kind of work, as simple google search would show you.

        Intelligence and consciousness are certainly of the “supernatural” because they cannot be explained in terms of materialism. But can you deny them? Can you say that you are just a machine, that is working on automatic.. even without free will as Sam Harris would have us believe, just a dumb sequenced series of events that are linked one after the other, each totally determined by the previous events? Man have a look at bacteria. They are able to change their genome with horizontal transfers etc., and influence one another as to become drug resistant. By chance and natural selection AND not only consistently over a huge number of people in the population but also often in a matter of a few hours? I’m sorry but I can’t buy that. The body.. life.. is not a machine but intelligent life, which we have yet to define, and it is purpose-driven. Beliefs play the crucial role.

        Intelligence and consciousness are not supernatural. Complexity theory has suggests some very interesting ideas in that regard. Because something hasn’t been explained, doesn’t mean it can’t be explained. There is nothing in human consciousness or intelligence that breaks the basic rules of the universe. They obviously exist, and will be explained by science. Because you “can’t buy” something doesn’t mean it is wrong.

        Like

      • “The cancer cells have evolved that way”. There is no evidence for this. It is the opinion of those with conflict of interests.If it were true it would be evolution, (which IMO is already garbage), taken to the nth degree.

        Evolution is supposed to be a very slow process. To consider that a cell has evolved into cancer is equivalent to saying that there are between 30,000 and 50,000 genetic mutation that have taken place in at best 20 years (and that is fantasy really because here again there is no evidence that it takes 10 or 20 years to develop).

        But let’s assume the 20 years to evolve. You will then need to accept that there are between 1500 to 2500 mutations yearly, which are useful in some manner, as to be “naturally selected”. This would amount to the ameoba to man in the 6,000 years the hard core Christians are talking about and who also say hey yeah Darwin!

        And to develop by evolution and be naturally selected so as to “co-opt” the immune system! WOW! And it gets worse! 100 years ago cancer ran at 5% incidence. It is now about 40-50%. So what is Evolution also evolving?

        “Damage to the DNA” is an even more fantastical story to the evolution story. You seem to refuse to comment on the fact that cancer cells show superior qualities. They can travel through the body, pass through any tissue and call on the immune system to help them (and I say co-opt the immune system is opinion only). All this from damage to the DNA!

        Easy enough to call my comment rubbish but show me some solid evidence to the contrary. The google searches that I do don’t give any evidence for this.

        Every process in the body is a consciously directed process because the body is purpose driven and not a machine.

        Complexity theory and chaos theory don’t give answers to consciousness and intelligence. The evidence however that is being thrown out of the window because it doesn’t suit big pharma does point to something other than the “physical only is the reality” scientific dogma. That evidence is ESP or psi. The experiments that are done are a travesty. All experiments are double blinded on the justification that that needs to be in order for the experimenters to be objective. Do you need to be double blinded to make a diagnosis? NO of course not. If you don’t get to examine the patient then you can’t make a diagnosis.

        There is a place for double blinding and that is to test the ESP that is not dependent on relationship. But the strong ESP is dependent on relationship. This doesn’t need the clinical trials, that are so clinical all the evidence that doesn’t suit has be evidence based in the trash.

        ESP has been shown to be real by millions upon millions of people world wide. It points to a non-physical aspect of reality. People can be adversely influenced through relationship and direct mental perceptions of ideas that are nothing more than malicious suggestions. And the real corruption is that the medical industry misrepresents the human condition to help keep up an ever increasing number of people that fall in the traps and develop disease like cancer. It is all about profits.. trillions of dollars of profits.

        Like

      • There are thousands of studies showing that genetic mutations cause cancer. Genetic mutation is also what drives evolution, so it is perfectly valid to describe cancer as evolving. To deny evolution (as you do) is like denying gravity. The theory of evolution by natural selection is one of the most tested theories of all time, and it has passed all tests with flying colours.

        You completely misunderstand the theory (and I have a feeling that you won’t listen to the explanation). Evolution at the organismal level and at the cellular level happens at completely different rates. This is extremely well known. As I have said in a previous reply, genetic mutation is an extremely common event (an estimated 120,000 mistakes in each cell division). The CRUK website (http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/) is a very good resource for the basic science of cancer.

        Regarding organismal evolution, there are several reasons for the slower rate of evolution. The generation time of a cell is usually hours to days. The generation time for a multicellular organism is usually years. Secondly, genetic changes must be made to the germ cell (rather than any cell, as in cancer), meaning that the population of cells is far smaller. Taking very conservative estimates, these two facts alone mean that the evolution of an organism is hundreds of thousands to millions of times slower than the evolution of a single cell towards cancer.
        “100 years ago cancer ran at 5% incidence. It is now about 40-50%.” Firstly, your numbers are wrong again, but I’ll get to that in a minute. 75% of all cancers occur in the over 60s. Considering that in 1900 the average life expectancy was just 31, and that now it is 71, are you surprised that it is increasing? People didn’t reach the age the develop cancer in the past. Furthermore, the rate of increase isn’t as extreme as you say either. In 1900, US cancer mortality was 63 per 100,000. It is now 250 per 100,000. This is a 4-fold increase, not the 10-fold increase that you claim.

        “You seem to refuse to comment on the fact that cancer cells show superior qualities”. What have we been arguing about? Have you read any of my replies? The cancer cells have corrupted natural processes to give them an advantage over surrounding cells. This is well known and the cause of cancer. What we are arguing about is whether the changes come about naturally or supernaturally.

        It is impossible to keep up with the nonsense that you spout (I won’t start on ESP, nor on your understanding of studies versus diagnoses). Every time I answer a question of yours you ignore the answer and either continue with the same nonsense, or move on to some new topic. Almost every line of what you write is factually incorrect, and replying and correcting you is unfortunately quite time consuming (I could get a blog post written in the time it takes to reply to you!). I will continue to engage in a less comprehensive manner, but if I deem any of your posts dangerous (suggesting that people forego their chemo, for example), I reserve the right not to publish it.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s